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Lifting the Curse 

Ohio Sky finally release an album ... and it's great

Leave it to a stoner-rock band to make their debut album under illegal circumstances.

Ohio Sky's terrific new full-length, Curses, was supposed to be recorded at Ante Up Audio on East 36th, but the Cleveland quintet wasn't happy with the sound they were getting in the studio. So they broke into the old warehouse attached to Ante Up, set up their gear, and made the album pretty much live, in single takes. The result is one of the best-sounding records to come out of Cleveland in 2012. "We've come a long way," says singer and rhythm guitarist Vince DiFranco (pictured, center). "When the band started, it was a completely different idea. We were even an instrumental band for a while."

It's been kind of a rough couple of years. Only DiFranco and drummer Eric Bambic remain from the original 2005 lineup. And after the release of the 2008 EP Apophis, it seemed like they hit one roadblock after another. "That's why the album is titled Curses — we couldn't catch a break," explains DiFranco.

"Instead of trying to go for a political thing or a social-commentary thing, this is what the fuck's going on in our heads."

It sounds like the band has finally found some footing. Curses explodes out of your speakers with hammering confidence — even more remarkable, since DiFranco only recently stepped up to the mic, replacing the band's original singer. And unlike so many other groups that blend prog, metal, and stoner sounds, Ohio Sky rarely overstuff their songs with needless showing off. The 13 tracks are tight, focused, and surprisingly melodic at times.

Ohio Sky recently recorded a four-song EP called This House Is Old and Filled With Ghosts, which is slated to be released in the spring. DiFranco calls it ethereal and spacey, and even kinda jammy.

"We just wanted to put another side of us out there," he says.

GETTIN' HORNY: The 40th annual Lakeland Jazz Festival happens this weekend, and while it doesn't boast the big names and broad scope of Tri-C's JazzFest (which runs April 19-29), it offers plenty of reasons to head east. Topping the lineup is Youngstown State University's Dave Morgan, who will present his take on Frank Zappa's great "Echidna's Arf (Of You)," which will be performed with a 14-piece ensemble on Friday. Grammy-nominated instrumental jazz faves the Yellowjackets will play on Saturday, and a big-band celebration goes down on Sunday. Find more info at lakelandcc.edu.

WOW, MAN, PASS THE MUSTARD: Last month's inaugural outing of the Happy Dog's new Life, the Universe & Hot Dogs series was so successful that the hot dog joint/music club is moving the monthly lectures upstairs. More than 125 people signed up for January's talk, so this Tuesday's installment, "Dark Matter Over Dark Beers," will be held in the main room. So free up some brain space and get ready to join deep thinkers Dan Akerib and Tom Shutt from Case Western Reserve's Institute for the Science of Origins as they discuss mind-blowing subjects while you sip tasty brews. It's just like toking up while listening to The Dark Side of the Moon, but you're not sitting around in your underwear in your living room and you have a choice of a few dozen hot dog varieties instead of one stale bag of Funyuns.

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